NYPD members arrested in prostitution, gambling ring probe, officials say

Seven NYPD members were arrested Wednesday in connection with a prostitution and gambling investigation dating to 2015, cops said.
Seven NYPD members were arrested Wednesday in connection with a prostitution and gambling investigation dating to 2015, cops said. Photo Credit: Rajvi Desai

A retired police detective and his wife are accused of running a massive prostitution ring and illicit gambling business with the help of seven active NYPD members and 40 civilians, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said on Thursday.

Ludwig Paz, 51, a retired detective from the NYPD’s Vice unit, allegedly ran the day-to-day operations at seven of eight brothels spread out across Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau County. Using his knowledge of the department’s vice protocols when investigating prostitution cases, Paz set up new policies for accepting clients in order to help root out possible undercover cops, according to Brown’s office, and paid his contacts within the NYPD for information that enabled him to thwart raids.

Among the active NYPD members who are accused of helping Paz and his wife, Arelis Peralta, are Brooklyn South Vice Det. Rene Samaniego, 43; Sgt. Carlos Cruz, 41; Det. Giovanny Rojas-Acosta, 40; Sgt. Cliff Nieves, 37; Sgt. Steven Nieves, 32; Officer Giancarlo Raspanti, 43; and Sgt. Louis Failla, 49.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the officers “tarnished the NYPD shields they wore,” and betrayed the trust of all 8.6 million New Yorkers.

“They have diminished the great work of tens of thousands of other honest and ethical cops,” O’Neill said during a news conference about the case on Thursday. “That should make every cop who has done this job angry.”

Cliff Nieves and Steven Nieves, who are brothers, were charged with promoting prostitution for allegedly running one of the brothels in order to host a bachelor party. Raspanti gave Paz confidential police information in exchange for discounted sex at a brothel and was charged with official misconduct and receiving a reward for official misconduct, per Brown’s office. Failla is accused of helping Paz after a police raid and was charged with official misconduct.

Samaniego, meanwhile, is accused of helping Paz with both the prostitution and gambling enterprises. Cruz and Acosta allegedly gave Paz information on police activities related to prostitution. All three were charged with enterprise corruption, according to Brown’s office.

The investigation began in April 2015 following a tip from a fellow service member who was concerned about the misconduct, officials said. Hundreds of hours of court-authorized surveillance and wiretaps were involved in the yearslong probe.

Between August 2016 through September 2018, the prostitution ring — with brothels located on Gates, Foster and Fourth avenues and 42nd Street in Brooklyn; on Liberty and Onderdonk avenues in Queens; and on Front Street in Hempstead — netted over $2 million in revenue, per the district attorney’s office.

“The vast majority of NYPD police officers are honest and dedicated to enforcing and upholding the law,” Brown said on Thursday. “However, today’s indictments of one former detective and seven current police officers of the NYPD dishonor the badge.”

Two additional officers were stripped of their badges and weapons and placed on modified duty for violating police rules, per the NYPD spokesman. They could face administrative charges based on their conduct in the case.

Paz and Peralta are also accused in an elaborate illegal lottery scheme that was based out of a deli on Springfield Boulevard and a beauty salon on 243rd Street in Queens as well as a beauty salon on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and other undisclosed locations.

The seven active NYPD members pleaded not guilty in court on Thursday and were released on their own recognizance. Paz was awaiting arraignment and the other 41 suspects were expected to appear in court either Thursday or Friday.